May 4, 2012

Review: Earth 2 #1

Category: Reviews — By @ 11:58 am

Earth 2 #1 was better than I expected, certainly better in terms of an introduction to a world than Justice League #1, though there were still elements that I found problematic.

One of my big worries about the book had been that DC Comics’ Trinity of Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman would overshadow the more exclusively-Justice Society characters like Jay Garrick and Alan Scott. They’ve solved this problem neatly, and in the process given the book a bit more of a hook than it would have had otherwise.

I’ve seen the issue described as a prologue, and it is, in that most of the issue takes place five years before the main series picks up. But it’s also a finale: The first 20 pages or so are really the concluding chapter in an apocalyptic war that changed the face of the world. In fact, if Earth 2 does well enough, I can see DC telling the story as a 6-issue miniseries, though the final issue really ought to be a reprint of this story plus an epilogue.

I like what I’ve seen of Alan Scott so far. I haven’t seen enough of Al Pratt to decide. Jay Garrick…well…I’m not terribly thrilled at what’s become of him, but let’s see what we get in issue #2.

On to the spoilers!

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To me, a big part of the appeal of the Justice Society is that they’re substantially different from the Justice League. Jay Garrick is not Barry Allen, Alan Scott is not Hal Jordan, and so on. But outside of short-term replacement stories, Superman is always Kal-El, Wonder Woman is always Diana, and Batman is always Bruce Wayne.

So in my opinion, DC needs to take one of two approaches to the trinity in a Justice Society book:

  • Focus on the actual original Justice Society, not a revamp.
  • Get the trinity out of the way so the other characters can shine.

There are several ways DC could have pushed Bruce, Clark and Diana to the side, but they chose to have the three heroes sacrifice their lives to save the world. That sets them up as inspiration (and preserves a little of the generational aspect of the team), but allows Jay, Alan and company to step up and become the world’s new premiere heroes. It also gives the book more of a reason to exist. Rather than simply, “Oh, it’s another reality” — okay, why focus on it? — we have a reality that specifically lost the Big Three.

In this context I also don’t mind that DC killed off the Amazons and Lois Lane yet again, because they’re killing off the entire mythologies for these characters. The last members of the Superman and Batman families are stranded on another world as Power Girl and the Huntress, and the last of the Greek/Roman gods is about to pass his legacy on to the Flash.

The war pages are by turns epic, gruesome and — in the case of the final conversation between Batman and Robin — touching. While neither Superman nor Wonder Woman left much of an impression on me, I find that I’d actually like to read more about this father/daughter dynamic duo. More problematic: why is it that only Wonder Woman’s death is shown in graphic detail, while Superman and Batman are just caught in explosions?

The present-day pages introduce us to the new Alan Scott and Jay Garrick. I like this Alan Scott: he’s the kind of businessman who’s really good at what he does, but doesn’t sacrifice principles or a conscience.

Jay Garrick, however, is a self-proclaimed “screw-up” (in the movie Hal Jordan mold, anyway, where we’re told that he’s a screw-up) who seems to have no ambition, no prospects, and no direction. If we take Joan Williams’ break-up rant at face value, he’s gone beyond the “everyman” that James Robinson described into total slacker territory. And if we take it as exaggerated, it doesn’t exactly paint Joan in the best light. (Not that she made a great first impression in 1940 either, but she quickly grew into the role of confidante.)

I’m going to be watching issue #2 to see how Jay gets fleshed out, but based on the first impression, I kind of want to cast Seth Rogen…who doesn’t really fit my idea of the Flash.

Earth 2 #1
Written by James Robinson
Art by Nicola Scott and Trevor Scott
Cover by Ivan Reis and Joe Prado